When I first had this book assigned for school reading, I was wary of what it would be like. Considering it was a story about the Civil War, I wondered if the author would use it as an excuse to preach what they believed about the war, but Behind Rebel Lines is far from a political rant.
It is the true story of a young woman, Emma Edmonds, who wants to do her part in supporting the Northern cause, but is dissatisfied with knitting socks, or even serving as a nurse in a hospital. She wishes to be on the front lines, giving soldiers aid when they need it the most. But there is a problem. Only male nurses can serve in fighting lines, and Emma is a woman. So she enlists in disguise as a man named Franklin Thomson.
Soon the general wishes to use "Frank" as a spy. It is fascinating to learn about Emma's various disguises: Cuff, a black slave, Bridget O'Shea, a middle-aged Irish peddler, Charles Mayberry, a well-to-do Southern gentleman. The details about her missions are captivating.
Another point that I highly appreciate is that when Emma is on furlough, she divides her time between caring for wounded Union soldiers and wounded Confederates. I am a loyal Southerner, and I love to find a Civil War story that isn't so slanted, doesn't paint the Union as perfect, and doesn't paint the Confederacy as purely evil. For example, when Emma is disguise as Bridget the Irish peddler, she stumbles upon a young Confederate lieutenant who is dying of typhoid fever. She sits with him for hours, caring for him even though it is too late to save his life. She stays with him until he dies, and fulfills his dying wish to give his golden pocketwatch to his general.
Behind Rebel Lines is an amazing story, told in a compelling style, and made all the more fascinating in that everything that Emma does actually happened. I recommend it for girls of any age.